01 January 2009

Book Number One

It is 11:50 on January 1 and I have just finished a book that symbolizes my New Year's Resolution: I vow to read more intellectual books, both fiction and non-fiction, and spend less time reading 'guilty pleasures' and watching television. While I wasn't as horrified by my reading report as I expected to be - I was thinking more along the lines of 90% guilty pleasures rather than the 80% - I still believe that I have slid into a sort of non-intellectualism that is highly disturbing. A.J. Jacobs, in The Know-it-All (aforementioned book) has a wonderful paragraph that describes what I was thinking before reading this text quite well:

I used to be smart. Back in high school and college, I was actually considered somewhat cerebral. I brought D.H. Lawrence [Virginia Woolf] novels on vacations, earnestly debated the fundamentals of Marxism [existentialism], peppered my conversation with words like "albeit" [puerile]. I knew my stuff. Then, in the years since graduating college, I began a long, slow slide into dumbness. At age thirty-five [twenty-eight], I've become embarrassingly ignorant. If things continue at this rate, by my fortieth birthday, I'll be spending my days watching Wheel of Fortune [Family Guy] and drooling into a bucket.

Terms in [] are my replacements. In a nutshell, that is how I feel though. I was an intellectual; I enjoyed reading difficult texts, studying subjects most felt were incomprehensible and useless, looking down on those who weren't taking advanced courses in eccentric and specific topics. Now, I find myself going all ADD when I encounter a subject requiring any sort of intellectual work. I tried blaming this on my job. I teach college English courses and hence spend a great deal of time helping others in intellectual pursuits. Really though, this is no excuse for wrapping myself up in the blanket of romance and science fiction when I am not at work.

On a side note, I've also used work as an excuse for my strangely antisocial behavior. I say that the reason I don't go out on the weekends is that I spend so much time talking to people at work, but maybe I'm just lazy. Before my job as a professor, I was rather social, going out every Friday and Saturday night and many times even during the week.

So, over the last say ten years, I've gone from someone who was almost extremely social and cerebral - to a loner who prefers to pursue the television show Lost as an intellectual endeavor and thinks Young Adult Literature, especially in the genre of science fiction, is perfectly acceptable reading material.

This realization and subsequent distress led me to my New Years Resolution and to Jacobs' book. A friend (thank you Brandon) introduced me to the book, and I thought it was an appropriate catalyst for my return to thinking. And it was. The book gave me many new topics to study, read, and think about. Perhaps I'll use this text as a sort of study guide. Who knows? I'm not very good at sticking to prescribed plans. For now, I'm loosely thinking I will alternate as follows: non-fiction, fiction, fiction, non-fiction, fiction, fiction, non-fiction..... but we shall see.

All I know now is that my next book is The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. The combination of this book being recommended by Oprah and turned into a movie diminishes its intellectualism from a pretentious point of view, but eh, it sounded interesting.

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

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